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This paper presents a theoretical and experimental study of the nonlinear effects generated RF-microelectromechanical system (MEMS) varactors and capacitive switches. The theoretical part includes an analytic derivation, as well as an electromechanical model suitable for computer-aided design (CAD) simulation. The simulations agree very well with measurements performed on a 24-GHz three-pole MEMS tunable filter. It is shown that MEMS capacitive components with a spring constant k>10 N/m generate very low intermodulation, as compared to semiconductor devices, and lead to a two-tone third-order intermodulation intercept point (IIP3) greater than +40 dBm for Δf>3-5f0, where f0 is the mechanical resonant frequency. In fact, the IIP3 increases to +80 dBm for a difference signal (Δf) of 5 MHz. The CAD model also allows the evaluation of the power-handling capabilities of the tunable filter and, it is seen that, for the case presented here, distortions become significant for an input power greater than +20 dBm. Noise generation due to thermal effects on a movable membrane (Brownian noise) is also modeled and it is shown that the tunable filter results in a very low phase-noise level close to the carrier.